Benjamin Ebeling Following in Dad’s Dressage Steps but Jumping, Too–“Focus on Youth,” Presented by Back on Track
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 6, 2019–Benjamin Ebeling has spent most of the 19 years of his life in a family immersed in dressage with his father riding in the Olympics for the United States and his mother a horse owner and running the barn as a successful business in Southern California.
A major goal for Ben this year is to make American Young Rider and possibly Under-25 squads to compete in Europe for the second summer on his two dressage horses, he told dressage-news.com in the first of a “Focus on Youth” monthly series presented by Back on Track.
But he admits with the enthusiasm he displays for most of his life he prefers jumping.
Ben took time out between two winning competition rides at a national show at the Global Dressage Festival grounds to jump a clear 1.25-meter round at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s International Arena and place sixth after the jumpoff.
And he hopes to compete as a Young Rider in jumping at the North American Youth Championships, the continental championsips where he has been successful in dressage, winning team gold as a junior in 2017.
Ben is in Wellington with his parents, Amy and Jan Ebeling, taking a break as a freshman majoring in business at Carnegie-Mellon University, one of the most highly rated private research institutes in the world and located in Pittsburgh. It’s his first experience of snowy winters, spending every previous winter in either Southern California or South Florida, both best known for perpetual summers.
He first started riding when six or seven years old when he started going out to the arena to watch his German-born father ride at the family facility, The Acres, in Moorpark, California, about 47 miles/76 km north of downtown Los Angeles.
“My parents never forced me into the riding business or even into riding sport,” he recalled. “I said to my mom one day, ‘I want to start riding’.”
Over the years, he graduated to training with David O’Brien while in Wellington and 2008 U.S. Olympic team gold medal rider Will Simpson in California for jumping.
For dressage, he works with Germany’s Christoph Koschel and his father, Jan, who was on the 2003 Pan American Games gold medal team, in four World Cup Finals and on the mare Rafalca at the 2012 London Olympics. Ownership of the mare by a small group of his mother, Amy, Beth Meyer and Ann Romney, the wife of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, made Rafalca and Jan a global celebrity couple.
“My dressage training has really helped in my jumping,” he said, “so that’s why I continue to do dressage.”
“I found doing a lot of pirouette work and learning how to engage the hind quarters in the collection really helps when you need to pop over a high vertical. It’s the same sort of collection, the same contact, especially in an extended canter then bringing them back lightly and on your aids instead of having to pull them back. I found that helps a lot. It keeps a horse more focused on the jump rather than on the rider on his back.”
Behlinger has been his main dressage mount, including the 2018 European Young Rider tour competing at the Hagen, Germany Nations Cup as well as Leudelange in Luxembourg and Deauville, France.
At the frst national show of 2019 at Wellington, Ben and his father had a side bet of $10 as to who would place higher in the Intermediate 1–Ben on Behlinger or Jan on Blenheim. Ben got odds of 3-to-1–Jan is “three times my age not to mention he has been to the Olympics.”
“Just to be in the same class with my dad on a horse I trained, Behlinger, it’s just amazing,” Ben said.
Jan on Blenheim won.
However, on Illuster Van De Kampert a new partner in dressage for Ben and owned with Sascha Cutter, he competed twice, winning both classes. In addition to his father, he has been working with David Marcus, a Canadian Olympian based in Wellington, who had been training the Belgian Warmblood gelding now 11 years old.
At Carnegie-Mellon he is considering a minor in political science or machine learning (artificial intelligence).
Of the seemingly disparate choices, he replied: “I get my love of political science from my dad’s sponsors (the Romneys) and love for machine learning from my great grandfather who started a company called Teledyne, very science oriented.” (Teledyne was founded in California and is an advanced technology company engaged in a wide range of industries from defense to pharmaceuticals.)
Horses aren’t his only passions.
Ben loves building cars and built his own 1967 Ford Mustang, an icon of American autos, when he was 16.
Ben is also a fan of American football. (For NFL fans, he’s a supporter this year of the Kansas City Chiefs that finished the regular season with 12 wins and four losses and meet the Indianapolis Colts in next weekend’s AFC playoffs.)
“I think the best thing about a business degree for me is that it teaches you how to run a business in horses,” Ben said. “I’ve grown up helping my mom and seeing how she runs her own business so I’ve gotten a lot of experience with that. My mom is really good at managing a barn, managing horses, because that’s about 90 per cent of the horse business right there.”
“My dream in life is to have a horse-oriented business and ride horses as my job, just like my father. Following in his footsteps would be the best job in the world for me.
“My mom and dad have been amazing role models for me. The way they carry themselves has really taught me a lot so in that aspect they are still my teachers. I love being around them and have missed them so much in college.”
He expects to return to California after college to work with his father while deciding on a longer term career path.